Business intelligence, or BI, can offer important benefits to companies. By offering a systematic approach to structuring, interpreting, analyzing, and displaying information, even from big data-type sources, BI becomes a way to improve operations and sharpen strategy.
But you don’t adopt such complicated technology without serious challenges. One is the question of whether to use it in a specific case or not. According to expert Katrin Ribant, many companies misapplied the technology, or at least the older versions of BI.
One of the latest missteps I heard was when a large enterprise’s marketing analytics division decided to engage with a BI solutions provider only to find out, after a couple years of hardship, that the solution was originally intended for accounting needs, and not tracking campaign performance or advertising spend.
Their systems were inflexible and needed a lot of consulting help to implement. As a result, the company spent two years to institute something that could not possibly help them.
Even with more modern systems that can handle multiple uses and the real-time adjustment of data streams, there are challenges that a successful implementation will need to overcome. A major one is the need to balance costs and effectiveness, according to data analysis firm Oversight. Trying to find information that can make a difference in the organization is not necessarily easy. Digging through mounds of data to find something that is worth acting upon can be expensive. At times the benefits of the results will never overtake the costs of finding them. Acting on what a company finds can also be incredibly difficult.
And then there are the other hurdles an implementation must overcome, according to business management consultancy Atre Group. These include the following:
- You’ll inevitably need people from multiple departments working together to obtain the expertise and detailed holistic knowledge of the company for the results to make business sense.
- The IT department cannot take on a BI project single-handedly. The affected business units must sponsor the project to get the cooperation and resources that will be necessary.
- Incomplete or dirty data are big problems not generally understood by non-technical people in organizations. But they require effort and resources to clean if the results of BI are going to be trustworthy.
- Companies may not have meta data to explain what stored data actually is. Or, just as problematic, there may be multiple definitions by different departments, leaving everyone to wonder exactly which, if any, might be right.
BI can be a transformative technology. However, getting from concept to delivered results effectively is not simple. You need to plan on managing the problems so your organization can eventually reap the benefits.
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